Biographers International Organization

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Biographer James McGrath Morris, Executive Director

Biographers International Organization (BIO) is a non-profit organization founded to promote the art and craft of biography, and to further the professional interests of its practitioners.

History[edit]

BIO was granted its corporate charter on May 26, 2010. It is designated as a 501 (c) 6.

BIO grew from the vision of James McGrath Morris, creator and editor of The Biographer’s Craft newsletter. In July 2008, Morris wrote an open letter to biographers,[1] and from that a grass-roots organization of practicing and apprentice biographers began to emerge. Eight months later, on March 26, 2009, the first formal organizing meeting took place in a classroom at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY, and a temporary 15-member founding committee was formed to function as an Interim Board of Directors.

In February 2010, the Interim Board announced the formation of an Advisory Council composed of leading and noted biographers and agents including Deirdre Bair, Douglas Brinkley, Robert Caro, Joan Hedrick, Justin Kaplan, Eric Lax, David Levering Lewis, Andrew Lownie, John Matteson, William S. McFeely, Jon Meacham, Marion Meade, Nancy Milford, Susan Ronald, Stacy Schiff, Martin J. Sherwin, Kenneth Silverman, William Taubman, and Terry Teachout.

Leadership[edit]

At the first Compleat Biographer Conference in Boston on May 15, 2010,[2] Nigel Hamilton was chosen to assume the presidency, succeeding Debby Applegate, who had served as interim president. Charles J. Shields was elected vice president, and eleven others were selected to serve one- to two-year terms on the board: Carol DeBoer-Langworthy, Gayle Feldman, Anne Heller, Kitty Kelley, Andrew Lownie, Paul Maher Jr., Hans Renders, Carl Rollyson, Stacy Schiff, Will Swift, and Steve Weinberg. In its first actions, the board selected James McGrath Morris to serve as executive director.

Since 2010, BIO's president and vice president have been elected biennially by BIO members.

Term
President
Vice President
2009 Debby Applegate None
2010-2012 Nigel Hamilton Charles J. Shields
2012-2014 James McGrath Morris Brian Jay Jones
2014-2016 Brian Jay Jones Cathy Curtis

Mission[edit]

In 2011, addressing the second annual Complete Biographer Conference in Washington, DC,[3] BIO President Nigel Hamilton[4] wrote: "Biography faces many challenges today, from a reduced attention span and ever-growing celebrity worship among readers to an obsession with self rather than others…. By confronting these challenges together, rather than singly, we can ensure the survival of biography as seriously researched, articulately composed, and well-produced work chronicling the lives of real individuals: a craft that has been in existence since Greek and Roman times. This is our commitment, then, each and every one of us: to make a unique contribution to human knowledge and understanding through our work."[5]

Awards[edit]

Each year at its annual conference, BIO presents several awards to honor biographers, librarians, and their work.

The BIO Award, initiated in 2010, is presented to an individual who has "made a significant contribution to the art and craft of biography," while the Biblio Award, created in 2012, is presented to an outstanding librarian or archivist. Awardees are selected by the BIO Board of Directors, from nominations submitted by BIO members.

Starting in 2013, BIO members select by vote the Plutarch Award for best biography of the year. The first Plutarch Award was presented to The Passage of Power, the fourth volume in Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson, his ongoing biography of President Lyndon Johnson.

Year
BIO Award
Biblio Award
Plutarch Award
2010 Jean Strouse
2011 Robert Caro
2012 Arnold Rampersad Edward Comstock, University of Southern California
2013 Ron Chernow David Smith, New York Public Library Robert Caro, The Passage of Power
2014 Stacy Schiff Wallace Dailey and Heather Cole, Curators, Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard University Linda Leavell, Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore

Notable Members[edit]

Notes[edit]